Sunday, December 21, 2008
On this fourth Sunday of Advent (with the candle representing Love), I wanted to share two excerpts from books that I felt portrayed the circumstances surrounding Jesus' birth quite well. They show realistically how the stable would have been... dirty and smelly - not a picture-perfect stable as we see depicted in almost every Christmas painting out there. They show the commonness of Jesus' parents, and the humility of His birth. I think it's important to remember that Jesus' birth didn't happen in a way that we 'romanticize' and think of as merely a story. It was real, and we can relate to how real it was... and most importantly, we relate to Him because of His humanness. I hope you enjoy these two sections of reading...
Joseph carried Mary down the hill and across a flat stretch. He saw the mouth of a small cave above him and headed for it. He wrinkled his nose as he entered the dark recesses, for the air was dank and fetid from the odours of dung and smoke. The donkey followed him into the cave and headed straight for the manger near the back.
Fear washed over Joseph as he looked at the filthy floor of the cave. Is this the place where the Messiah will be born? Tears filled his eyes. Here, Lord?
(Unafraid, by Francine Rivers)
He came, not as a flash of light or as an unapproachable conqueror, but as one whose first cries were heard by a peasant girl and a sleepy carpenter. The hands that first held him were unmanicured, calloused and dirty.
No silk. No ivory. No hype. No party. No hoopla.
Were it not for the shepherds, there would have been no reception.
… The universe watched with wonder as The Almighty learned to walk. Children played in the street with him. And had the synagogue leader in Nazareth known who was listening to his sermons…
Jesus may have been tone-deaf. It could be that his knees were bony. One thing’s for sure: He was, while completely divine, completely human.
For thirty-three years he would feel everything you and I have ever felt. He felt weak. He grew weary. He got colds. His feelings got hurt. His feet got tired. And his head ached.
To think of Jesus in such a light is – well, it seems almost irreverent, doesn’t it? It’s not something we like to do; it’s uncomfortable. It is much easier to keep the humanity out of the incarnation. Clean the manure from around the manger. Wipe the sweat out of his eyes. Pretend he never snored or blew his nose or hit his thumb with a hammer.
He’s easier to stomach that way. There is something about keeping him divine…
But don’t do it. Don’t. Let him be as human as he intended to be. Let him into the mire and muck of our world. For only if we let him in can he pull us out.
Listen to him.
“Love your neighbour” was spoken by a man whose neighbours tried to kill him.
The challenge to leave family for the gospel was issued by one who kissed his mother goodbye in the doorway.
“Pray for those that persecute you” came from the lips that would soon be begging God to forgive his murderers.
“I am with you always” are the words of a God who in one instant did the impossible to make it all possible for you and me.
It all happened in a moment. In one moment… a most remarkable moment. The Word became flesh.
(God Came Near, by Max Lucado)